George and Linda Smith
When we enjoyed an elegant meal last year at 88, we didn't think this restaurant at the Spruce Point Inn could get any better. But this year, they really stepped it up.
In the first few minutes after we were escorted to our table, three servers approached: one with complimentary glasses of champagne, another with a basket of rolls with cheddar cheese and caramelized onions and our primary server, Domingo, with a menu, wine list and special welcome.
Boy, did I feel pampered! This is white tablecloth, lots of silverware, piano music in the background, superb service, fine dining. I told Lin I could get used to this at home. Ahem. Guess not.
We hit it off with Domingo from the start. He spends winters in Texas, a favorite birding state for Lin and I, and we shared Texas stories. Domingo is a professional server -- very knowledgeable -- and was a great help throughout the meal as we pondered the many menu choices.
We selected a wine we love, Beaujolais Villages, this one from Louis Latour of France and priced very reasonably at $25. In fact, 88's extensive wine list offers many reasonably priced choices. As Domingo was pouring our first glasses, we were presented with a delicious amuse bouche of Ahi tuna with cucumber, cilantro and lemon oil.
When dining at fine restaurants like 88, I tend to focus on seafood -- mostly because Lin doesn't eat much of it so we don't get it at home. And I have never forgotten the amazing steamed PEI mussels I enjoyed here last year. But the Deviled Eggs starter piqued my curiosity. I've never seen it on a menu before, so I tried it.
This was a very creative presentation, with one egg featuring truffle, one with cracked pepper mélange and one with salmon roe. The server who delivered the plate advised me to eat the eggs in this order: cracked pepper to truffle to salmon roe -- spicy to earthy to savory. Wow! Deviled eggs will never be the same.
At this point, Lin -- always on the lookout for birds -- advised me to turn around and see the bird out in the harbor. Turns out, it was a buoy. "That's not the wine," she asserted. "It's my 60-year-old eyes."
There was a flower on my plate of deviled eggs, and when Domingo returned to pick up the plate he said, "You didn't want to eat your nasturtium?"
"He gets them at home hidden in his salads," Linda answered. News to me.
Selecting an entree was really tough, but I returned to my tried-and-true scallops after being assured that they were Maine scallops. These scallops were perfectly seared (lots of places overcook them but scallops are actually delicious when eaten raw), and presented in a lemon butter sauce. Just divine, accompanied by steamed spinach, fabulous butternut squash and sweet corn hash.
The presentation of this plate was gorgeous and the aroma, as Domingo set the plate in front of me, was incredible. I especially appreciate the fact the portions here are large, but not so big that you can't eat all of your dinner. The bill wasn't too big, either. Our entire dining experience cost less than $100.
When a breakfast muffin arrived with our check, I could not imagine ever eating again. But I did appreciate the thought. Everything at 88 is presented in a thoughtful elegant manner. Can't wait to see how they step it up another notch next year!
When visiting the Boothbay Harbor area, the selection of restaurants can be daunting as there are so many choices. If you are looking for creative food, beautiful presentations, fresh ingredients, amazing flavor and a view of the harbor that will take your breath away, look no further than 88.
From the perfectly set tables and color scheme to the lighting and decor, it will immediately make an impression of elegance. Maine coastal cuisine is featured at 88, so there is quite a variety of seafood choices. Most of the appetizers are seafood, as are about half of the entree offerings. George is right: I don't eat fish, but I did choose the Peke-Toe Crab Cake for my appetizer.
This is one food choice that is rarely the same. Some chefs favor the addition of spices or other ingredients, while others choose just crabmeat and something to bind it together. The crab cake at 88 is all crab -- how they hold together I don't know. This one is quite big, sweet and very light, dominated by the fresh taste of crabmeat. Micro greens and remoulade make this a heavenly appetizer.
Sunsets in this restaurant are stunning. The sun reflecting off the water requires the lowering of shades on the massive windows. As I started taking photos through the blinds, staff rushed over to ask if I wanted the window shade raised. I declined, noting what a cool picture the sunset made through the blind.
We skipped the salad and soup offerings, but they sure looked good as they were delivered to nearby tables. The servers here are very knowledgeable and will guide you toward good decisions. Domingo steered me to the butternut squash ravioli, freshly prepared here. It was accompanied by caramelized onions, toasted hazelnuts and sage butter, making this a very different dish than the same type of ravioli served elsewhere.
The hazelnut aroma wafted up as it was placed in front of me. Holy Schmoly! The fresh-stuffed raviolis rest in an aromatic broth topped with micro greens and large shreds of Parmesan. The sweetness of the caramelized onions enhanced the butter sage sauce nicely. It was such a light entree. Truly unbelievable.
For dessert, George wanted the Chili Ginger Whoopie Pie, but I remembered the Creme Brulee from our last dinner here, and that's what we shared. This ultra-creamy custard held true vanilla flavor and was a perfect contrast to the crunchy sugar topping. It was a very elegant version of this classic dish.
Elegant food served in elegant surroundings at an affordable price. If you don't make it there before 88 closes this fall, this is one restaurant to put on your list for next summer!'
IF YOU GO
Spruce Point Inn
88 Grandview Avenue
633-4152 or 800-553-0289.
In addition to 88, the inn has a great breakfast/lunch restaurant called Bogie’s.
Visit George's website -- georgesmithmaine.com -- for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin' Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the "Best of Maine" section.Tweet
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